Monday, May 17, 2010

Brazil's Wetlands

Four times the size of England, one-third the size of France, almost forty times the size of the Everglades, it is, by far, the largest wetland region on the face of the earth.
It's called the Pantanal.
Mostly it's in Brazil, but it also stretches into Paraguay and Bolivia.
And covers a total area of more than 75,000 square miles.
The name comes from the Portuguese pântano, meaning swamp or marsh, an apt description, because eighty percent of the region is submerged during the rainy season
More than 400 kinds of fish swim in the rivers and and clearwater lakes of the Pantanal.
More than 480 kinds of reptiles slither in its mud,

some of them are anacondas that like to feed upon crocodiles.
Tapirs can be found there...

...and anteaters;


and coatis;

great otters,

many varieties of monkeys,

rare maned wolves,

jaguars, and a lovely little creature we call...

the Jaguatirica, a pixie bobcat that looks like a cat...but is most definitely not. Cute aren't they? So cute that some people have tried to domesticate them - without success and with lots of bites and scratches to show for their trouble.  
In all, there are more than 300 species of mammals in the Pantanal...

and more than 1,000 species of birds...

including 15 different kinds of parrots.

The fauna, too is impressive. There are more than 1,700 varieties of flowering plants.

How many more varieties of animals?  How many more varieties of plants?
Nobody knows.
The Pantanal is a mother lode of unrecorded wildlife.

And it isn't only the variety that's impressive. The numbers are, too. Current estimates are that the region contains more than ten million caimans.

Readers from Europe and the United States sometimes question my reasons for living in a country that has more than its fair share of criminality and violence.
One, of many, is the Pantanal.

Leighton – Monday


  1. But, Leighton, how much time do you actually spend in the wetlands? How many of the birds and beasts have you seen and photographed? The pictures are gorgeous. Did you take them?

    Pat Browning

  2. I love El Pantanal Leighton. Thank you very much for your post. Excellent as all yours from Brazil a country I love and in which I happen to live two years.

  3. What gorgeous photos? Absolutely fascinating for those of us who live in countries with much very reduced wild areas. That last photograph reminded me of a very hot and humid day on the Cape Fear River at Wilmington NC, where we could not understand why the young guys were not swimming in the inviting water until what we tourists thought was a floating log began to swim towards the jetty.

  4. "Why did it have to be snakes? I hate snakes."

    Like Indiana Jones, I hate snakes. I left the room whenever the TV station ran the trailer for SNAKES ON A PLANE. If I had been on a plane with snakes, I would have succumbed to a heart attack at the sight of the first one.

    People have a variety of reasons for not reading a book. Snakes are the deal breaker for me. Actually, all reptiles fall in that category.

    The other creatures are interesting. How and where does that monkey hide himself from predators?

    Why are the humans riding through that water on horses when a giraffe would be more appropriate?

    I would like more pictures of birds and flowers. Psychologists can analyze my phobias to the end of time but sometimes people hate snakes just because they are snakes.

    We have some snakes in my neighborhood, the real kind. When my daughter was four, she followed a garter snake in front of our house all day. The next morning, when my husband went out to pick up the paper, the man across the street was waiting for him. He told my husband he had found the snake dead in his driveway. He got rid of it because he didn't want my daughter to see it. As he said, girl and snake seemed to have bonded and he didn't want her to know that the snake was no more.

    She would go into hysteria mode if anything with wings flew near her but she loved bugs. That little person has long since disappeared but she insists I will not have a happy afterlife if I kill a lady bug or a spider. I am fine with the right to life of lady bugs but not so convinced about spiders.


  5. At school they taught me that ´flod´ + ´hest´ was hippopotamus, not river horse, but perhaps things are just different in Brazil?

    And that anteater just caught a huuuge fish?

    Thank you for sharing these.

  6. Pat: Lots. And over many years. I don't particularly like the Amazon, or Manaus, but I love the Pantanal, so that's where I go for a nature fix. My wife is the family photographer, but none of these photos are hers. She's traveling at the moment, and I didn't have access to her files when I wrote the post.

    José Ignacio: I am so happy to meet another Brazil nut. Two years? Where? When?

    Beth: I really don't know where those monkeys hide from predators, but I'll ask the next time I'm there. I suppose it's up there in the trees, from where they seldom come down. As to daughters who don't want to kill anything, we have one too. In her youth, it was our fate to live in a place where there were huge cockroaches. If she caught us killing one, she had a fit. She always gathered them lovingly into her hands and deposited them outside the house. And you know what? In her home, she still does. Drives her husband nuts.

    Norman: Cape Fear? There really is a Cape Fear? I thought it was just a movie. How's it going with that leg?

    Dorte: I love it! Somebody asked me about that anteater, and I told them the truth, but that's the end of that. No more truth. I'm gonna use your explanation from here on in. It's much more fun.
    The truth? Oh, yeah, well, between us, the truth is that they do it scare away enemies. It makes them look bigger when they go up on their hind legs. They can't bite, of course, but they've got really mean claws.

  7. Leighton

    Wonderful post and gorgeous photos. Coincidentally, yesterday morning my husband clicked the tv on to Discovery HD Theater. This channel seems to have either wonderful nature shows or shows about auto racing and auctioning of classic autos. It's a strange mix. Anyway -- to the point. We came into the show late so didn't get the lead off information, but it was about an area they called Amazonia. Wonderful photography and they showed all kinds of fish and water creatures. I liked especially the Elephant Manatees. So where or what is Amazonia? I know Leighton, you are the person to ask.


  8. Leighton, What a gorgeous post. I have been to a wet part of Brazil and Argentina (Iguazu) and to the African wilderness, which stole my heart, but never to the Pantanal. It looks fascinating. I wish I could get on a plane and go there right now. Urban woman that I think I am, my soul grows in the wilderness. Thank you for this brief, but beautiful vacation on a rainy morning in New York.

  9. Jacquie - In fact, I posted about Amazonia on this blog back a while back. I think that post will answer all of your questions - and more.
    You'll find past postings listed on the right-hand side of the page. Click on the month of January and a drop-down menu will appear. One of the posts is entitled "The Amazon".
    Click on it, and you're there!
    And, for you other folks who haven't been following this blog since its inception, please take the time, someday, to browse through our archives. You might find other subjects that will be of interest to you.

    Annamaria - So you've been to Iguaçu have you?
    (That's the Portuguese spelling.) Did you catch it in the rainy season? And did you take the helicopter into the Devil's Throat?
    Thanks for bringing it up. I think I'll do a post on it sometime soon.

  10. Thanks Leighton for reminding me that you had posted on the Amazon before. Of course, I had read it, but was interesting to reread especially since I had just seen the show on tv. The photography blew us away. Showing something like the speed with which some of the fish catch their dinner. All in HD. Thanks for the journey.


  11. Leighton, I was at Iguasu (I can't make my computer give me the Portuguese spelling!) a number of years ago when there was actually a walkway where you could go out and look down into the Devil's Throat without the helicopter. I am not sure which is the scarier: that old wooden platform or the helicopter ride.

    My husband and I drove through Paraguay from Encarnacion to Iguasu in a rental car along roads patrolled by what looked like twelve-year-old boys with machine guns. We don't speak Spanish, but our Paraguayan friends advised us that when we saw the soldiers, we should just slow down and let them check out the registration on our car. That they would let us alone as long as they could see that the car was not stolen. We followed their advice and had no trouble. Iguasu was in FULL force when we got there. Magnificent. The memory of the energy in that water excites me still. Please do write a post about it. I would love to go back there vicariously.


  12. Leighton, that was back in 1990-92. I lived in Sao Paulo. Glad to find another Brazilian nut. Your interesting blog always brings me very good memories.

  13. Gorgeous! Makes me want to travel to Brazil. Actually, all of your posts do!


  14. Leighton I have just come back from a physiotherapy session with a charming young who is much stronger than she looks and has been stretching my leg. I have also been on an special exercise bike I feel like I have done 10 rounds with Mike Tyson. But it is getting better thanks.
    Yes, there really is a Cape Fear River and a Cape Fear.

  15. Four times the size of England, one-third the size of France ?

    It means France is 12 times bigger than England ?

    There must be a typo here ...

  16. Thank you, Anonymous,

    You are quite right.
    I'm surprised I didn't catch that.
    I'm even more surprised that no other reader has caught it until now.

    It should read, "larger than England, a quarter of the size of France".

    Here are the numbers:
    England: About 130,000 Square Kilometers.
    France: About 552,000 Square Kilometers.
    The Pantanal: About 140,000 Square Kilometers.

  17. The jaguatirica photo in your post is not really a jaguatirica.
    Jaguatirica look like a small onça.